Thursday, January 7, 2010

Minnesota Twins Decade Retrospective: 2004

I’m continuing my Twins decade retrospective today with the 7th best season of the aughts. Check out the 8th, 9th, or 10th place entries if you haven’t done so yet. Also, if you just can’t get enough of those pesky 2000 Twins (and really, who can?) check out Erin’s piece at Picked Off at First. Good stuff.

I don’t want to say that by 2004 Twins playoff appearances had become cache, per se. But, well, after two straight playoff berths, and a solid core of talent still intact, a 2004 playoff appearance was pretty much assumed.

The Twins fulfilled the playoff promise by easily wrapping up a third straight division title, but unfortunately followed the division title up with a less-than-shocking playoff exit against the Yankees.

Was it a good year? Sure.

Was it a great year? Hardly.

When a team is in the playoffs for the third straight time, they should at least be making progress. The 2004 Twins, however, again stalled out in the ALDS. Granted, they should have won game two, which would have put them up 2-0 on the Yankees, and likely would have led to them winning the series, but that did not happen.

Very much because of the disappointing end, 2004 slots in as the 7th best season of the decade.

I’d review rules again, but instead you can just click here, here, or here because I am too lazy to copy and paste. Just remember, yes, I am still aware memorableness isn’t actually word.

On to the ratings…

Successfulness – 7

Obviously, 2004 was at least a fairly successful season for the Twins. Any time a team makes the playoffs it is impossible to say they failed, but 2004 certainly felt like the worst of the playoff years.

Individually, other than Johan Santana and his first Cy Young, nobody on the team had played great. A lot of solid years, but nothing great.

Solid play leads to a solid finish, but the team proved to lack a little something in the playoffs.

Of course, the year probably would have turned out very differently if Joe Mauer hadn’t gotten hurt, as his replacement, Henry Blanco (or Hank White as my friend and I called him – clever, I know), left something to be desired.

In the end, the Twins won the division. And because playoff berths are the measure of success in Minnesota baseball land, I guess we aren’t allowed to complain.

Memorableness – 4

If you would like to argue that 4 is a low memorableness score for a playoff team, well, screw off and start your own blog. I’m giving 2004 a 4.

Everything good that happened in 2004, turned sour very quickly. Observe:

Joe Mauer makes his debut on opening day against the Indians and goes 2 for 5 in a game the Twins win behind an 11th inning walk of home run from Shannon Stewart. (This was one of the best Twins games I have ever attended. It went so late we got home at like 3 in the morning. Not to mention the next day in my English class the substitute teacher informed us he was tired because he had been at the Twins game the night before, to which I responded, “hey, me too,” before going back to sleep. Good times.)

One day later, Mauer blows out his knee.

The Twins make the playoffs and manage to steal game one in New York behind Johan Santana stellar pitching. In game two, the Twins score two runs in the top of the eighth and take the game into extra innings. After scoreless tenth and eleventh innings, Torii Hunter cracks a solo home run in the top of the twelfth, giving the Twins the lead.

A half inning later, Ron Gardenhire leaves Joe Nathan in the game in lieu of Jesse Crain and the Twins lose. (This still pisses me off; which, of course, is ironic because I am mad because Crain DIDN’T pitch. Weird.)

Following the devastating game two loss, the Twins unsurprisingly drop game three. Game four, however, proves to be another close contest (complete with the guy sitting behind me and my friend calling Henry “Hank White” Blanco’s home run in one of the most randomly ridiculous moments I have ever witnessed). Up 5-1 after seven innings, the Twins appear poised to send the game back to New York.

A half inning later, Juan Rincon coughs up the lead, capped off by a three run homer by 90-year-old Ruben Sierra. Twins end up losing the game, and series, in extra innings.
So as you can see, even the Twins good moments in 2004, actually turned out to be shitty.

Likeability – 5

The 2004 Twins were very nondescript. The team was very similar to the 2003 squad, aside from the arrival (and quick departure) of Mauer, and arrival of Joe Nathan.

A lot of excitement surrounded Mauer, obviously, but the team’s likeability score dropped dramatically with his injury. The Morneau for Mientkiewicz swap also helped, but people still seemed to like Mientkiewicz for whatever reason so that slight squirleness from fans makes for a lower score.

Plus, Morneau wouldn’t fulfill his full likeability until 2006. In 2004, he was just kind of there.

The fact is, 2004 Twins belonged to Torii Hunter, but Hunter was taken for granted at that point, thus the team falls right in the middle with a likeability score of 5.

Intangibles – 4

A. Johan Santana wins a Cy Young = good.

B. Joe Mauer blows out knee = bad.

C. Michael Restovich + Terry Tiffee + Michael Ryan = Worst trio in the history of random-young-guys-fans-were-inexplicably-excited-about.

I just remember creating Restovich on whatever baseball game I was playing on PS2 at the time. I gave him Mike Piazza’s batting stance, made him a shitty hitter, and watched him fly out almost every time he batted. Seemed fitting

D. Augie Ojeda randomly hitting .339 in 49 Abs = randomly enjoyable

So to complete the equation, A+B+C+D = 4. There you go.

Overall - 20

Because I really have nothing else to say, I would like to return to the Torii Hunter home run from game two of the ALDS to tell one more story:

I got together with some friends to watch the game. Throughout the evening, whenever something good happened I would yell, “NOW YOU”RE A MAN!” and my friend would respond, “M-A-N MAN!” (If you are wondering, that was the chorus to the theme song to Orgazmo. What can I say, we were in high school, and we were douche bags.)

Random Orgazmo-themed glee was enjoyable enough, but a potentially legendary night only grew from there. Following the eleventh inning, one of our friends had to leave (which is inexcusable, but I digress). As Hunter was batting in the twelfth, my friend calls me to ask how the game is going. Right as I am responding, “It’s still tied” Hunter cracks a home run. Without skipping a beat, I scream, “not anymore!” into the phone and toss it aside as my other friends and I begin jumping up and down in a homoerotic 17-year-old excite-fest.

We were pumped for the obvious reason, but also because the “now you’re a man/it’s still tied…no it’s not!” moments were about to go down in lore for my group of friends.

Of course, the Twins ended up losing the game and the series, and we ended up never speaking of those moments again.

I feel like that story epitomizes the 2004 Twins…

1 comment:

  1. i was at game 2 in NY. When the Twins took the lead, we left, my Yankees buddy who drove wanted to go. I knew the Twins wouldn't hold the lead, because Gardy didn't trust any of the remaining pitchers. they take that game and maybe it alters the 2004 Red Sox, hell, even if they beat the Twins, it wouldn't be as special to Sox fans. and thats what it is all about, making other fanbases feel less special.